May 27th, the last Monday in May, is Memorial Day. Americans pause to remember and honor those who died defending our country. The observance began at Waterloo, NY on May 5, 1865, as a tribute to Union Soldiers.
For years, Southern states had separate Memorial Days. For example, Tennessee's was June 3.
Memorial Day now honors the dead of all wars in which the United States has fought. Congress declared it a Federal Holiday in 1971. Tennessee is nicknamed the Volunteer State because so many of its citizens have enlisted when needed.
The famed Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto, the first European to see the Mississippi River, died on May 21, 1542.
De Soto and his men had marched hundreds of miles through much of the Southeast. By the time of his death, De Soto had lost at least 1/3 of his men to disease, malnutrition, and constant warfare with the Native Americans.
After his death, the remaining Spaniards traveled down the Mississippi, made their way to Mexico, and then back home.
Abe Fortas may be the only Supreme Court Justice whose first career was in a dance band. The son of Jewish immigrants from England, Fortas grew up on Pontotoc Street in downtown Memphis. His father encouraged him to play the violin, and, by thirteen, he was playing in a dance band called “the Blue Medley Boys.”
The young sensation, nicknamed “Fiddlin' Abe,” earned enough to supplement his college scholarship at Southwestern University, today's Rhodes College. His passion for music and the arts remained with him throughout his life.
In August of 1870, the brutal murder of Colonel Thomas Dickins was reported in the Memphis Avalanche. According to the article, Col. Dickins, returning to his farm near Raleigh, "was way-laid by some fiend, and his life destroyed, in daylight, on a public road."
The assassin had ambushed the victim and fired both barrels of a shotgun into Col. Dickins' body from close range.